"We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world – no longer a Government of free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”
-Woodrow Wilson [U.S. President during World War I]
The policies of George W Bush can be construed as a significant event in American politics. For it has deeply polarized America into one deeply conservative dominated by militia groups, right wing Christian organizations and the other liberal which is steeped in the ideals of an egalitarian society.
The truth of the matter is that the Christian Right, a dogmatic religious movement, is an important constituent of Bush’s Republican Party. They are also the biggest backers of Israel and Bush’s planned war against Iraq. According to Jim Lobe (Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of Iraq War) 69% of conservative Christians favored the war against Iraq. Almost two thirds of evangelical Christians supported Israel’s military action against the Palestinians.
The Christian Right denounces abortion, gay marriages and opposes contraception and birth control. They are against the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. Since 2001 the Far Right Christian fundamentalists have assumed positions of power in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Drug Administration and on commissions and advisory committees.
The profiles of the appointees are controversial and make disturbing reading. Tom Coburn former Republican Congressman who was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS is reported to have forced condom manufacturers to label their products as ineffective. Dr. Joseph McIlhaney, Jr, appointed on the HIV and AIDS advisory council has a long and well-documented history of disseminating misleading data on condom failure rates. Dr. W. David Hager, appointed to the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, is opposed to contraception. Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, appointed to the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, is a strong advocate of abstinence and "rhythm method." Dr. Alma Golden, a Texas pediatrician who was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Population Affairs is a longtime proponent of abstinence as the only acceptable means of birth control. “Three years later this administration”, writes Stephen Pizzo in his article The Christian Taliban, “has established one of the most rigid sexual health agendas in the Western world”.
Christian fundamentalism in America is the self appointed moral conscience of the American Creed and is rooted in religious intolerance. It believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, which is the master plan of God. The Holy Book is the source of wisdom of all matters social, political, and religious. Its worldview is couched in delusional terms with the forces of evil powerfully ranged against it. As Pat Robertson says, ‘It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-biased media and the homosexuals who want to destroy all Christians.’ Paul Weyrich (founder of the Heritage Foundation and the free Congress Foundation) expresses his concern in Manichean terms; “"This [opposition to gay rights, abortion and feminism] is really the most significant battle of the age-old conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and the forces against God."
In the sphere of education, Christian Fundamentalists aggressively promote creationism, a doctrine that holds the view that earth was created only a few thousand years ago and not billions of years ago as modern science indicates. There is antipathy to the theory of evolution and Darwin is the devil incarnate.
Equally disturbing and ominous to the health of the American Republic is the growth of Militia Groups, which share a common platform with the Christian right in their denunciation of multiculturalism. The militia movement is the strange amalgam of race, religion and politics. The philosophy of the militia groups is the unfettered right of individuals to bear arms. The militia groups suffer from psychotic victim complex with the irrational belief that their government and the UN are persecuting it. The Aryan Nation, another militant group, espouses the cause of White Supremacy. In the church of Jesus Christ at Northern Idaho there is the sign at the entrance ‘For Whites Only’ along with the portrait of Hitler. One of the most notorious examples in recent times is that of Timothy McVeigh who was executed for bombing a government building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Since his execution, McVeigh has become a martyr in the annals of the Militia movement.
Combined with the growth of Christian fundamentalism and militia groups is the ascendancy of free market ideology. The mythology of free market is that business is hampered by the nanny state. If the invisible hand of the market were allowed a free hand then there would be wealth creation. Free market ideology demands that the state should be a disinterested spectator while the businessmen go about their elusive quest of the market.
In reality, free market requires the strong support of the state. The economic history of the United States illustrates this fact forcefully: The American State vigorously intervened in the economic life of the nation. As John Gray astutely observed that the foundations of American prosperity were laid behind the walls of high tariffs. Federal and State government were active in building railways and highways. The U.S. economy was opened up with an arsenal of government subsidies. Much of American big business received the largesse of the state in the form of subsidies, tax cuts and tariff protection. Corporate critic Ralph Estes estimated that the public money flowing into corporate coffers in the year 1994 alone was in the region of more than two trillion dollars. Welfare measures for the poor and the vulnerable were pared to the bone.
The direct consequence of market fundamentalism was the creation of economic insecurity by the deliberate government policy of freeing corporations from its social obligations. The freedom of the corporate executives to downsize the labor force, to hire and fire its workers at will destroyed the trust of the workforce. From 1987 to 1991 big American corporations lowered their net payroll by 2.4 million workers. The downsizing happened when corporations made huge earnings. The profits went to the shareholders and CEO’s who gave generous compensation packages to themselves.
This cynical practice produced a crippling sense of economic insecurity among the wage earners. Edward Luttwak in his article, Turbo-charged Capitalism and its Consequences, commented that most working Americans, lacking the formal safeguards of European employment protection laws or prolonged post employment benefits and the substantial liquid savings of their middleclass counterparts in all other developed countries, must rely wholly on their jobs for economic security and live in conditions of chronic acute insecurity. The sense of insecurity has enveloped the entire middleclass including professionals, as they must live on a day-to-day basis without knowing whether they would retain their jobs.
More worrying is that though in the American economy there has been a steady rise in productivity in the past two decades yet the incomes for the majority has fallen or stagnated. According to Professor Edward Wolf the richest one per cent of the household owns 38% of all wealth. By 1998 the top 5% had more wealth than the 95% of the population. The bottom 20% has no wealth or savings.
The statistics on Income inequality is equally gloomy: over the last two decades the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest of families grew from 11 times to 19 times. According to a survey conducted by the Fortune magazine showed that in the 70’s real annual compensation for the top 100 CEO’s of American corporations averaged $1.3 million which was about 39 times more pay than that of an average worker. By the end of 1990’s the gap widened: the top Fortune 100 CEO’s took home $37.5 million or 1000 times more pay than the average American worker. Real incomes have stagnated at the middle level and declined at the bottom.
Jared Bernstein, the co-author of The State of Working America 2002/2003, argues that in order to understand why a particular occupation pays less now than it did 20 years ago one has to look at structural changes such as higher unemployment, fewer union protections, lower minimum wages, large and unsustainable trade imbalances. Those are the kinds of factors that work against non-college-educated workers that find themselves with less bargaining power and thus are less able to claim their fair share of the growth.
The deregulated labour market with fewer union protection and lower minimum wages has led to the creation of the underclass, rise in crime, and social tension. The unemployment levels are high among the blacks and racial minorities. The crackdown on crime and drug abuse has increased the prison population. In the last twenty years, the US prison population has risen by 566 per cent, from 300,000 inmates in 1981 to nearly 2 million in 1999. The alarming fact, often suppressed in the mainstream media, is that the rise in US prison population is unprecedented in democratic society. The United States outstrips other developed countries in its rates of imprisonment- 645 detainees per 100,000 of population, which is 6-10 times higher than that of the countries of the European Union. La Monde Diplomatique says that the US prison system makes a direct contribution to regulating the lower segments of the labour market. Recent figures available suggest that about two million persons are incarcerated in US prisons. “This means”, says Dermot Sreenan in his article “The United States of Captivity”, “that the prison population of the USA accounts for 25% of the entire prison population of the world. This figure is even more startling when you discover that the US only accounts for 5% of the global population”.
The American Dream has turned sour. The power of the American Republic has passed from the hands of its people. Over the years the elected representatives have surrendered the mandate of the people to corporate elites: a regime change without the consent of the people. Social and Economic issues that affect the interests of the majority are framed to suit narrow corporate interests. The vision of the founding fathers of the Constitution has been subverted by stilling the voice of the people. The firewall between the Government and Corporations so essential for democracy has crumbled by the flooding of corporate money into government. The scandal of Enron, which for many years paid thousands of dollars to the Highest-ranking Washington politicians, exposed the cozy relationship between business and the Government. The government of the people, by the people, for the people, has faded for most of the Americans.
1 Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of Iraq War – Jim Lobe – October 10, 2002 – Commondreams.org
2 The Christian Taliban – Stephen Pizzo – March 28, 2004 – Alternet.org
3 Fundamentalist World – Stuart Sim – Icon books -page13.
4 Fundamentalist World – Stuart Sim- Icon books-pages 13-14.
5 Fundamentalist World – Stuart Sim- Icon books-pages 10-11.
6 False Dawn – John Gray – Granta – pages 104-105.
7 False Dawn – John Gray – Granta – page-108
8 Turbo-charged Capitalism and its Consequences – Edward Luttwak – London Review of Books – 2 November 1995- page 7.
9 The Wealth Divide – The growing gap in the United States between the Rich and the Rest – Edward Wolf – Multinational Monitor – May 2003 – VOLUME 24 – NUMBER 5.
10 The Independent magazine 15 May 1999 quoted in The Week "America: the world's new gulag?" by Sasha Sabramski;
11 Le Monde Diplomatique July 1998 "Imprisoning the American Poor" by Loic Wacquant